As an 18-year-old, Julie Medeiros never would have believed that in 12 years she would be part of a national honor society, let alone attending college. Being a victim of childhood abuse and sex trafficking had left her feeling like she would never do anything of significance in her life.
After barely graduating high school, she moved away from home and spent some time working at an inner-city Christian youth program. There, the director encouraged her to consider attending a local college, which set her on her path toward leadership. In her four years of undergraduate work, Medeiros went from being on academic probation at first to becoming a resident assistant in the dorms—a position reserved for students meeting competitive academic requirements and possessing leadership qualities.
Fast forward to 2020. Medeiros, now 30, holds a bachelor’s degree and is enrolled in University of Phoenix’s graduate level clinical mental health program. College brought out her natural ability to lead, and she decided at that point she wanted to use her past experience to do good for others. She recently became one of thousands of UOPX students inducted into the University’s new chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) honor society, launched at the end of 2019.
Medeiros was so excited for the opportunity that she signed up for membership on a Friday and by Monday, she had completed half of the work toward her leadership certificate.
“I want to be able to be the best support and best leader I can be for the people I am working with,” Medeiros said.
Like with Medeiros, adult learners across the University have taken advantage of the professional development opportunities provided by involvement in the NSLS. In the first two months after invitations began going out, 11,100 UOPX students became members. The minimum GPA requirements are 3.0 for undergraduates and 3.5 for graduate students.
Tondra Richardson, director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, said it’s not just a designation that you put on your resume. Through its work with the NSLS, the University of Phoenix continues its legacy of providing customized and flexible academic solutions for students.
“Membership in the NSLS offers a wealth of advantages.” she said. “The University is excited to provide this new opportunity to recognize students’ interests in advanced professional development and building community leadership while offering post graduate programs that will engage alumni.”
Medeiros is putting the skills she’s learning from NSLS to immediate use in her role at a community-based behavioral health provider as one of three human trafficking survivor leaders in Arizona, mentoring adults and youth who are also survivors. She said what she is learning through NSLS will help her pursue her dream of opening a nonprofit organization aimed at helping youth who are at risk of human trafficking.
In her spare time, Medeiros volunteers through an organization in Phoenix that provides support and resources for those experiencing homelessness, hunger, poverty, addiction, abuse and human trafficking. She and a friend, who is also a survivor of trafficking, have begun working with youth who are at risk of being trafficked.
Working under the name The Frontline Survivors, they hosted their first camp last summer, and have monthly meetings where young people are mentored in healthy boundaries and relationships.
She said membership in the NSLS couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The NSLS is really big on giving back, and that’s my lifestyle. Every aspect of my life revolves around leadership and giving back,” she said. “The NSLS has given me so many tools to grow and be a more confident leader. I strive to be a servant leader, and want to continue learning and growing.”
Medeiros expects to complete her masters of science in clinical mental health counseling in December 2020, and hopes to learn as much through the NSLS about business and leadership skills as she can. She has already taken two of the three leadership courses offered through the NSLS and plans to take the third—executive leadership—as soon as she can.
She also plans to honor the NSLS’s commitment to and focus on service, something she feels passionate about and will make a part of her non-profit’s mission.
“I’m learning about leadership styles and personalities, understanding different ways to approach and engage with different people,” Medeiros said. “If I can learn more to impact more people and to make a difference, I’m going to do it.”